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righteousness, by that person whom he hath ordained for this purpose Jesus Christ. St. Paul declares we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; and, therefore, to every man it may with truth and propriety be said-" Prepare to meet thy God"-prepare either to justify thyself, or to contend with him-or prepare for a gracious reception, by previous and immediate submission to mercy. If man would think seriously, and believe the truth sent down from heaven, instead of believing the lies suggested by Satan and a wicked heart, he would soon be convinced that self-justification is as impracticable as to overcome Omnipotence. No sophistry can conceal man's guilt from Him who searcheth the heart, and "declareth unto man what is his thought;" and no power can resist His who "formeth the mountains, and createth the wind;" whose word makes the earth tremble, and sends forth the desolating tempest; whose providence can turn the morning of impious hope into darkness and bitter disappointment; and who can tread the powerful wicked, on the high places of the earth, under his feet. Resistance to the Almighty is so palpable a fallacy, it is not usually suggested to the human mind by the deceiver of mankind: it is his mode of destroying, rather to employ misrepresentation than to urge direct opposition; to suggest that sin is not so great an evil as some people would represent it; and that the Almighty will not require a strict account of man's thoughts, words, and actions: or he persuades men to put far away the evil day, and suggests that it is yet too soon to prepare to meet one's God; by which delusion, persisted in day after day and year after year, many suddenly pass to the bar of God, (it is to be feared,) wholly unprepared. The misinterpreting the mercy of God is another destructive fallacy by which many are deceived. That God is merciful, is as true as that God is just. But to whom is he merciful? to the man who mocks at sin, and still goes on in his trespasses? No such thing! The Bible declares that God is angry with the wicked every day;-against such the wrath of God is revealed from heaven;-to such sinners God is a consuming fire. But, to him that con
fesseth and forsaketh his sins, the Lord sheweth mercy, and multiplies pardons. God is merciful, but he will not be mocked; and the hypocrite cannot deceive him. He is most merciful to the man who is sincerely sorry for his sin, and who obediently submits to the Saviour as Heaven has directed: but to the man who makes light of sin, and who despises or neglects the Saviour, the Gospel does not promise mercy. Now, concerning what is sin, and what is duty, man must derive his opinions from reason and from revelation. The will of God, as far as it can be ascertained, must decide what is right and what is wrong; not man's own notions, in opposition to, or differing from the Divine Will.
By looking over this book of Amos, from which the text is taken, we may see some of the sins on account of which divine judgments were threatened. The period spoken of is nearly 2,500 years ago; about 800 years before the Romans conquered England. The first sin mentioned is cruelty. The Edomites pursued their brothers of the kingdom of Judah with the sword, and cast off all pity. The anger of Edom did tear perpetually, and he "kept his wrath for ever." The inhabitants of Damascus cruelly treated those of Gilead, and threshed them, as with threshing instruments of iron. And the Ammonites, for the purpose of enlarging their borders, or extending their territories, stormed the cities of Gilead, and ripped up their women with child. The divine law requires of the different nations of mankind charity and good will to each other, an endeavour to promote each other's welfare; and of individuals is required a spirit of benevolence, which not only forbids hurting or injuring either man or woman, whether in their persons, their character, or their property, but also requires that they should be assisted to the utmost of any man's power. A feeling of indifference about other people begins a violation of the divine law; and cruelty to them closes it, or carries the offence to the greatest degree. How many cruelties are still practised by the nations of Europe in their wars undertaken for trivial causes, such as a desire to enlarge their border, or to
extend their territory! When the Almighty shall make inquisition for the blood of hundreds and thousands of those who have been unmercifully treated, or cruelly murdered, how will those men, who have instigated or perpetrated these cruelties, be prepared to meet their God?
Gaza is threatened because they carried away captive the whole captivity, and cruelly delivered them up to Edom as slaves, (ch. i. 6.); and how much displeasure must Heaven have felt against the professed Christians of Europe, who have cruelly carried away, and still carry away, from their homes, thousands of defenceless persons, and sell them as slaves. When our Saviour said, 66 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy," the declaration implied, that the unmerciful, or cruel, were accursed.
Another sin with which the people of that day were charged by the Prophet, and which the Almighty declares his determination to punish, is contempt for and disregard of the divine law, with the dissemination of false opinions in religion and morals. "They despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept his commandnients, and their lies caused them to err." In many places, in the Sacred Scriptures, the children of men are charged with this contempt for the divine precepts; and this wickedness is cherished by believing lies, or false opinions. Some scornful men pique themselves on not being believers; they would have others think that they are too knowing to believe; whereas in fact no one is more credulous than a wicked man. He too believes; but he will believe a lie that promises impunity to the sinner, rather than believe the truth which threatens his punishment. As in the case of our first parents, he will believe Satan when he says, " You may sin and yet not die," rather than believe the Almighty when he declares, “In the day thou sinnest thou shalt assuredly die." The prophet Isaiah, too, describes the rulers of Jerusalem scorners and despisers of the divine law, and of his threatenings they said, with contempt and defiance,
When the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come near unto us; for we have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement: we have
made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves.' False opinions make sinners feel careless and secure; and a sort of faith in the devil, a belief in lying excuses for sin, embolden them still to go on, and to err more and more from the right way. Men know very well that the third commandment forbids making use of the name of the Almighty on trivial occasions; and yet how frequently is the commandment despised and violated, without the least feeling of remorse, because people believe that it is a sufficient excuse that they mean no harm! But meaning harm, or not meaning harm, is not at all noticed in the commandment. Mean harm to whom? How could men harm the Almighty, in their sense of harm? If it be intended that they mean no harm to their neighbour, the excuse is equally fallacious. This commandment speaks of man's duty to his Maker, not of his duty to his fellowcreatures. It commands us to reverence, in our speech, the divine name; and we violate that precept whenever we use it with irreverence. The precept is very express"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." Now, the lie, or false opinion, which people commonly believe, is, that they will be held. guiltless," because they swear, or invoke the divine name, out of merriment, or from surprise, or from habit, without direct malice; none of which excuses can be reasonably inferred from the precept as at all availing.
This is but one example of many other false opinions that cause men to err, and persist in sin with an easy conscience. Men believe, or half believe, with now and then slight misgivings, such excuses for sin, and a neglect of duty towards God, as would not impose on a mere fool, if they referred to duties owing himself.
Men who have a right to command, properly enough insist on strict, prompt, and implicit odedience, and admit of no silly excuses; and shall the high commands of righteous Heaven be despised and disregarded, and the divine authority insulted by silly excuses, and man yet be "guiltless," in direct contradiction to the divine declara
tion! Were it not the fact that man appears to believe such lying absurdities, it might be supposed impossible that he could so far deceive himself, or be such a dupe to the deceiver of mankind.
Another false opinion very prevalent is, that young men may be vicious with impunity-that youth is an excuse for vice; but it is an opinion not at all countenanced in the Bible, any more than that it is excusable for persons, in certain situations, to disregard the divine laws: as for example, that strict morality does not apply to sailors or soldiers, or to politicians, or to great generals and conquerors. In some of these cases the parties would not plead for an entire exemption, but that various forms of wickedness are excusable in them, from their peculiar circumstances; and a little sophistry may be employed to support the pretext: but when examined by the holy law revealed in the Bible, all such pretexts will prove to be a part of those lies which cause men to err. (Isa. xliv. 20.) "A deceived heart turns man aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say-is there not a lie in my right hand?"
Even the ministers of religion are not free from being the dupes of false opinions, and the defenders of them, by which they confirm others in their wicked ways, and destroy instead of saving men. Thus saith the Lord, "I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria, who have caused my people Israel to err; for both prophet and priest are profane; the land is full of adulterers, and because of swearing the land mourneth. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing; they commit adultery, and walk in lies; they strengthen also the hands of evil doers, that none doth return from his wickedness." (Jer. xxiii. 10-14.) And how do they strengthen the hands of evil doers ?-by bad example, and by "walking in lies," or defending false opinions.
You see how impartial the Bible is. Some people have represented it as made up kingcraft and priestcraft ; but it is as severe against wicked kings and magistrates, and wicked prophets and priests, as against wicked poor men; and therefore the accusation is not true. The Bible